With a shift in education today toward increased student talk, collaboration, and ownership of learning, the words that teachers choose to weave throughout their instruction and interactions with students are even more crucial. The purpose of this qualitative multi-case study was to explore the shift in students’ mindsets within an environment thick with process-oriented language with a focus on the inevitability of problems while learning. Research questions focused on the impact of specific teacher language, student reactions to challenging situations, and shifts in student language and perceptions of themselves as learners (mindset). The participants, two male and one female, attended 4th grade in a public elementary school in a rural Midwestern community in the US. Student written response to scenarios, interviews, student mindset survey responses, videotaped classroom instruction, and student daily written reflection served as data sources. Using a constant comparative method of analysis, the author analyzed these data sources throughout the study in an open-coding process. As students learned in this process-oriented language rich environment, their mindsets shifted as their focus gradually moved from speed to content to process. Students incorporated language focused on growth and problem-solving strategies into their written reflections and interactions in the classroom. Suggestions for further research include exploring teacher language with regard to both students’ mindsets and academic achievement, as well as the implications of parent involvement.


Teacher Language, Feedback, Process, Mindset, Elementary School Students, Case Study, Qualitative Research

Author Bio(s)

Abby Rau currently teaches fourth grade and serves as a reading interventionist for grades K-5 in a small school district in the Midwestern United States. Her educational experience includes teaching in first grade and fourth grade settings, as well as primary students in an indigenous Ecuadorian community. Abby holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in reading and language arts from the University of Iowa and a Master of Education degree in Leadership in Reading from the University of Sioux Falls. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed to Abby Rau at Abby.L.Rau@gmail.com.

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